Transition Guelph

Category: General

Thanks to everyone who attended our 2019 AGM at Royal City Brewery. It was great to catch up with folks and hear about some great successes from the last year! Here’s a copy of Steve’s presentation for anyone interested.

Greetings All:

After three years of running the Urban Sugaring Project, I am taking a year off to reorganize and refine the program. We have had great success in growing the Urban Sugaring Project with participation in both Guelph and Kitchener. The year off will allow me to get additional funding and to work out some of the issues that arose last year with the expanded program.

My goal is to determine the best way to expand the program and still maintain the original purpose – helping to teach participants about tapping their trees and making maple syrup.

The Urban Sugaring Project will return in 2020.

I am pleased to still be working with the students from the Headwaters Program and John McCrae Public School on Guelph’s own maple syrup festival. Please join me at Syrup in the City at John McCrae Public School (189 Water Street) on Saturday March 30, 2019. The festival will run from 10 am until 1 pm and include a pancake breakfast, hands-on demonstrations of tree tapping, musical performances, and shows by the Mountsberg Raptors Centre Birds of Prey.

John Dennis
Urban Sugaring Project Coordinator

The winners of this year’s Edible Community Garden Grant are:

  • London-Main Community Garden, Newmarket; Fedge
  • Huron-Sussex Community Garden, Toronto; Fedge
  • Woodview, Alisa Craig; Garden
  • Grow Garden, Guelph; Forest

Congrats from all of us at The Transition Treemobile! The more you order, the more goes towards grants to order your fruit and nut trees and shrubs online and have them delivered (and even planted) right at your door.


Please join us at the Bookshelf for the screening of SEED: the untold story.  A beautifully stunning movie about our right to save seeds and the threatened biodiveristy of vegetable crops.  Stay after the show for a discussion and snacks at Miijidaa with the Guelph and Toronto Seed Libraries! April 25th at 7:30 pm at the Bookshelf.

Tickets available at the Guelph Tool Library or online.

The Church of St Matthias and St James the Apostle and the Guelph Tool Library, a Transition Guelph project, would like your help with a sewing machine and materials collection drive called “Sew North”. We will be collecting materials at the church and the Guelph Tool Library from April 15 until May 12, 2018 and looking for donations. On Saturday May 12, we will host a packing\fixing day to service and tune up all the machines going north at the church.

How can you help? First, tell your friends and family about Sew North. We have decided to concentrate on sewing machines, materials and notions. This can include buttons, fabric, yard goods, trims, zippers, pins, needles, threads, or any items for handwork. We are also looking for machines of any type and make. They do not have to be in working condition as we will be servicing all the machines. Also, on Saturday May 12, we will need a number of volunteers to help out with logistics, working with our fixers, and packaging up materials.

We also need financial help to pay for parts for broken machines, extra or needed materials that are not donated, packing materials, and technical support for the fixers. Donations of $10 or more will be issued a charitable receipt.

Click here to donate!

Sew North is being carried out as part of the Inuit Outreach Project (IOP) which has been running for over 9 years in the Diocese of Niagara. Materials are sent to the north through a program offered by Air Inuit. Air Inuit flies to a number of communities in Northern Quebec and provides free transportation for the collected materials. Program Co-ordinator George Gastle of St Paul’s says their aims are twofold, firstly, ‘to provide essential items for daily living and secondly, to learn about yesterday and today’s Inuit Culture and share information about living conditions for our Northern Neighbours.” George reports shipments have gone to nine communities in the past 9 years.

The idea for the project came from Environment and Social Justice Committee member Mary Ann Robinson. She said “this is an excellent project to both provide assistance where needed and at the same time, moving some things out of your own storage after you no longer use them. Downsize with purpose!”

John Dennis who is a Tool Library Coordinator reported that “this was a natural collaboration between the church and the Guelph Tool Library. We have our volunteer fixers from our Repair Cafes and the church will have a need to service and tune up a number of sewing machines.” The church was the host of the first ever Repair Café Guelph in August of 2016 and the Repair Café will be returning again this August to the church.

If you need more information or assistance with transporting, sorting or packing, you are welcome to contact : Mary Ann Robinson, John Dennis or Ann Chidwick at


The Guelph Seed Library is officially open!

We are located in the Guelph Tool Library, 131 Ontario St. (Entrance off Toronto St).

The Guelph Seed Library

Sign up for our mailing list by e-mailing

We have had a lot of questions about how to save seeds so here some information to get you started. There are also a lot of resources on the internet and books about seed saving. We have a couple of seed saving books that you can look at when you visit the Seed Library.

Before you save seed you need to know what the latin names of your crops are. You can easily look it up online if the seed packed doesn’t tell you. There can be many varieties within a species that can cross and often we think of crops being different enough to have their own species but they don’t. Example: Zucchini and pumpkins are in the same species (Cucurbita pepo) so they will easily cross.

There are several ways to make sure your crops do not cross:

Isolation by distance: Only planting one crop per species or making sure they are far enough away from each other (but some crops need a very big isolation distance so this may not be enough). See link for isolation distances for various crops.

Timing, grow short season crops in succession so that they are not blooming at the same time. Example: You want to save seed from 2 types of lettuce. Plant one early, wait 3 weeks then plant the other. They should not be flowering/setting seed at the same time).

Caging. You can put small mesh bags around flowers to stop cross pollination of self fertile crops, or large cages around a group of one crop to avoid cross pollination. If you are caging you need to know which crops require insects to pollinate. In these cases you may have to remove the cages on opposite days so that insects can visit those flowers. Or in the case of squash, hand pollination is the best method to ensure fertilization without cross pollination.

When saving seeds we also want to maintain genetic diversity. In this case it is good to have a large number of plants from the same crop flowering at the same time. The following link gives the number of plants required to maintain genetic diversity for various crops. You do not need to save seed from the whole crop, just the healthiest couple of plants that display the best characteristics (colour, flavour, shape).

Before you harvest your seeds you want to make sure the seeds are pretty dry. (Unless you are saving seeds in a fruit like a tomato/pepper/melo/squash…) Usually the plant looks like it is dying/drying out and getting brown. Cutting the plant at the soil line and then laying the plant on a tarp in a dry place for a week or two will help the seeds dry out and capture any remaining energy in the plant.
If you are saving seeds from a fruit like a tomato, pick the fruit when it is perfectly ripe, scoupe the seeds out and clean them, then lay them out on paper towel to dry for a couple of weeks.

Once the seeds are dry you can separate it from the rest of the plant. There are many ways to do this depending on what kind of seeds you are saving. Walking on the pods laying out on a tarp, hand picking, shaking in a paper bag…
Remember to label your seed storage container with the seed name and date they were saved.
Seeds should be kept in a cool dry place but the most important factor is stable temperature and low humidity.
Some seeds will last longer than others. Onion seeds do not last longer than a year or two. Tomato seeds can last for many years.


Tomato- If you are only growing one variety of tomato you do not have to worry about cross pollination (also if varieties are different in growth such as cherry vs brandywine they probably won’t cross). In this case choose good specimens from healthy plants.
If you have multiple varieties and you cannot maintain the isolation distance (see link above) then you can choose a healthy plant before the flowers open, place a small mesh bag around a few of the flowers and wait until the flowers open. The flowers are self fertile so do not require insect pollination. Once you see a fruit forming you can remove the bag but make sure you label the stem of the fruit so you know which one to harvest for seeds.
There are 2 methods for tomato seed saving. The first is super easy. You just cut open your ripe tomato and squeeze out the seeds onto a paper towel. Remember to label the paper towel with the variety. Let the seeds dry for a week then scrape them off into a labeled envelop or bag.

The second method is more time consuming but can give a higher germination rate. You squeeze the seeds into a jar with water and let them soak for about a week. Then you pour off as much water (and floating seeds) as possible, add more water, let the seeds settle, pour off water, add more water…until the water is pretty clean. Then scoop the seeds out onto paper towel, let them dry for a week or two, then scrape them off into a labeled envelope or bag.

Kale/arugula- Not all kale will produce seeds. I have had good success with Red Russian kale. Plant the kale early in the spring and allow a few plants to mature and go to flower. Kale can cross with mustards, broccoli, cauliflower, collards…so don’t let those other crops go to flower (at the same time).
Once the seed pods are dry but have not opened cut the stalks and place them in a large plastic bag or lay them on a tarp in a dry place out of direct sunlight. You will notice seeds starting to fall into the bottom of the plastic bag/onto the tarp. Use your hands to scrunch the seed pods inside the plastic bags to get all the seed to fall out or walk along the tarp to crush seed pods. If you are using a plastic bag you can push all the seed to one corner, cut a hole and let the seed slide out without getting too much chaff.
If you use a tarp you can remove the large chaff by hand then set up a fan in front of a bin so that when you pour the seeds and chaff into the bin the fan blows the chaff away.
If you need to remove more chaff you can use different sizes sieves or a homemade seed winnower. Remember to label a jar/envelope/plastic bag with the crop and date.

Note: Always collect dried seed on a dry day to avoid excess moisture.

Cross pollination:
Cross pollination occurs when pollinators (bees, flies, wind…) move pollen from one plant to another. If you are only growing one variety of a crop then you probably don’t have to worry about cross pollination (although your neighbours could be growing a crop that will cross pollinate). If cross pollination occurs the seeds you save may not grow into the plants you expect. Squash and pumpkins are particularly susceptible to cross pollination. If you are wanting to save squash or pumpkin seeds and you really want them to be true to the parent you have a few choices: If you know the latin name of the squash you are growing do not grow any other squash that have a similar latin name. Example if you are growing a squash from the Cucurbita pepo family, only grow one from that family. You could also grow one from Cucurbita maxima without worrying about cross pollination. Although again think about what your neighbours might be growing:)

If you do not know the latin name of your squash and/or you want to grow a number of varieties the best way to save seed without cross pollination is to find a female flower (the flower with a mini fruit already started in the picture) before it has opened. Put a tag on this flower, find a male flower (the one with a straight stalk in the picture) that has not opened yet, cut it from the plant and bring it over to the female flower. Gently open the male flower, you will see pollen on the anthers inside. Gently open the female flower, you can either wipe the pollen from the male flower onto the stigma of the female flower or use a paint brush to gently transfer the pollen. Once this is done gently enclose the female flower in a fine mesh bag. You can remove the mesh bag once the fruit starts to grow but make sure you have labeled the stem so you know that’s the fruit you hand pollinated. You may want to do a few of these incase fruit set doesn’t occur or something happens to the fruit before you can harvest the seed. To harvest seed from a squash you must wait until it is ripe. Then you can cut it open, scoop out the seeds and rinse them before laying them out to dry. Place dried seeds in a labeled bag.

If you are unsure if your seed is viable (old seed, first time saving seed) you can perform a germination test.

Germination test:
Moisten paper towel
Place a couple of seeds to be tested on paper towel
Place paper towel in a labeled plastic bag
Leave the plastic bag open for a bit of air circulation
Check seeds everyday, make sure paper towel is moist but not too wet as seeds will rot. Look for small white roots/shoots coming out of the seeds. Some seeds will take longer to germinate than others. Look up germination times on the internet/in a book so you know how long to wait. Some seeds need warmth to germinate.

The Seed Library accepts all attempts at seed saving. Please label your seeds with the crop, year saved, and whether you took precautions to avoid cross pollination. If you didn’t we will be putting those seeds in a “grow at your own surprise” box since we can’t guarantee they will get.


Click here for a pdf version seed saving instructions.

Guelph Tool Library is moving to their new place at Tytler Public School and need your support for this and future expansions. Please consider supporting them through this campaign!

The next Repair Cafe will be on Sat March 25th at St George’s Church from 11am to 3pm! This event will be part of the Resilience Festival. There will be volunteers who will help to fix electrical appliances, electronics, clocks, computers, clothing, jewelry, etc. There will also be a volunteer who will help with sharpening knives! Bring your broken stuff and have them fixed with the help of our volunteer experts!

Visit the Facebook page to know more about the event:

Visit the GTL website to learn more about Repair Cafe:

This is a free event organized by the Guelph Tool Library.

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